Don't let COVID-19 affect your Labor Day weekend plans
As we head into the Labor Day holiday and people are planning to travel or gather with friends, San Diego County is reporting the highest number of COVID-19 infections in a month since March.
In August San Diego County recorded more than 4,700 COVID-19 cases. That's more than double the number of infections in May and June. About a third of the infections last month were in people over 60.
According to the county's COVID-19 Dashboard, there have been 31 deaths since June 11.
UC San Diego Associate Professor of Public Health Rebecca Fielding-Miller said the increase could be due in part to children going back to school.
“Everybody’s coming back from summer vacation. You have a lot of kids and adults in a new space. And yeah, there will definitely be transmission,” Fielding-Miller said.
But she said that’s not the only reason for the rise in cases.
“This interaction of, more people are seeking out tests and more people are getting sick, and it's sort of multiplicative, which is why you would see a rise in the caseload,” Fielding-Miller said. “So it's kind of good, actually, that you're seeing more cases, because it means that more people are getting tested.”
Dr. William Tseng with Kaiser Permanente San Diego said the county data doesn’t capture all infections since many people test at home. He said the current wastewater numbers are a good reflection of how much virus is in the community.
“If you're looking at the number of viral load wastewater versus August of last year, where it was 15 million versus 1.5 million. So it's, you know, 1, 2 million, maybe about 10-fold difference. So the number of cases, even though, is going up and we've gotta be careful. It is not to a point where we need to. All like, ‘Oh, my God! Everything needs to be implemented again,’” Tseng said.
Tseng said while symptoms of the new dominant COVID-19 variant (called Eris) are similar to the original virus, current vaccines may not provide great protection against it.
“The key thing to know is that the Eris is also a variant related to XBB, which is a variant of Omicron,” he said. “We've seen this before. It's nothing new, certainly, in terms of vaccination response. It's something that we're looking at very closely to make sure that you are still going to be protected from the virus.”
Tseng recommends getting a flu vaccine now and waiting to get a COVID-19 booster until it includes protection against the Eris and XBB variants of Omicron. Those new vaccines are expected later this year.
But if you are flying during this holiday weekend, Fielding-Miller suggests wearing a mask.
“There's going to just be a lot of people in an airplane. And that there's just a lot of people breathing the same air and there's just all sorts of things in that air besides COVID,” Fielding-Miller continued, “So it's also a great time to wear a mask, even if just on the airplane, or while you're boarding or deplaning.”
Fielding-Miller also encourages people to gather outdoors.
“It is a great holiday to be outside, and again, I think that everybody's level of comfort is gonna vary. And genuinely, personally and professionally, I just try to default to being kind. Is there somebody who I want to spend time with who feels a little bit more nervous about this than I do. Let's just do whatever is most comfortable for them,” Fielding-Miller said.